December 18, 2014

Childfree Myths

Busted Childfree Myth of the Week (National Infertility Awareness Week)

Busted Childfree Myth of the Week (National Infertility Awareness Week)

Myth: People who live childfree are selfish.

Busted!: Choosing not to have children is no more or less selfish than choosing to have children. Describing a childfree person as being selfish is a subjective value judgment that does not consider the various other meaningful contributions childfree people make to the world.

The reasons for which children are brought into this world vary and some can be very selfish. Aspiring parents could conceivably be making an equally or more selfish a decision if their purpose is the expectation that their children will look after them as they grow older, or are trying to save a relationship already in trouble. At the heart of the decision to bring a child into the world often lies the parents’ own desires, to enjoy the experience of child-rearing.

Living a childfree lifestyle is choosing to be for one’s self, rather than being selfish. It is being honest with the realities of the reason the decision was presented in the first place and understanding that the value of one’s self is not defined by the role of being a parent, but by the quality of the role played by being a human being.

(via Myths About Childfree Living)

I’d never heard of National Infertility Awareness Week before receiving a tip from a reader that I should check out their Myths About Childfree Living. It’s worth a touch-and-go — if for no other reason than it’s intriguing creation and dissemination by the The National Infertility Association — but I think the most compelling “busted childfree myth” is the one I’ve quoted above. It touches on two issues that invariably arise in “Why no kids?” conversations, selfishness and choice. The post revisits the latter and several other childfree myths:

  • Living child free is a choice, and they never wanted children.
  • People who live child free have empty lives.
  • People who live childfree have carefree lives.
  • A higher-power is telling you that you should not be a parent.

Obviously some couple living childfree lives actually wanted to (perhaps tried to) have children and were unable to for one reason or another. For them, living childfree is not not a choice. But for many of us it is. A profoundly important (and often difficult) choice. It’s a choice we continue to make again and again. And it isn’t always a choice that hinges upon having never wanted children. Few people are so simple. Human psychology is complex and fluid; wants ebb and flow. But the ongoing choice not to have children endures for some couples despite whims, curiosities, fashions, fears, desires, etc. It is these couples who’s stories particularly intrigue me. I hope that we will continue to hear more in the weeks and months ahead.

As for the final three childfree myths, they all strike me as a bit light and goofy, but they’ll be revisited in due course. Although, fair warning, the “higher-power” crutch is a personal peeve. So, with all due respect, I’ll encourage someone else to ponder the almighty will scenarios!

About virtualDavis

G.G. Davis, Jr. (aka virtualDavis) is a writer, storyteller, unabashed flâneur and eager-beaver uncle. Despite two whiz-bang nieces, two superstar nephews, and rewarding teaching/coaching stints at the American School of Paris and Santa Fe Preparatory School, he remains willingly, enthusiastically and happily childfree. His WNK posts are part of an ongoing attempt to understand why. Rosslyn Redux, a transmedia chronicle about rehabilitating an historic property in the Adirondacks, offers a more ironic twist on his childfree adventure. He also blogs at virtualDavis.com and EssexonLakeChamplain.com. Connect with G.G. Davis, Jr. via Twitter, Facebook or Google+.

Comments

  1. The notion of selfishness as it relates to choosing to have kids or not is being bandied about like crazy. It’s curious to me that we should be so preoccupied by it. Is selfishness something to fear? As humans, we are all driven to find comfort, success, and happiness in life, which makes me think that the root of selfishness is biological. Every organism must be selfish, to some extent, in order to survive.
    That said, we humans have the unique gift of higher thought perched atop our animal nature, and so we can entertain the idea of *selflessness*–what it means and how to achieve it.
    Personally, I think it’s desirable to strive for selflessness as much as possible because, ironically, reaching beyond one’s self opens so many possibilities for *fulfillment* of self.
    Many paths can lead to this personal fulfillment. You might choose to walk your path alone. Or perhaps you choose to walk it with a partner….perhaps a spouse. Maybe your spouse is the same gender as you are, and you know that this is the only person who can walk beside you. You know that only with this person can you find that amazing view up ahead.
    Or perhaps that person walking beside you is your child, and with your child you find that your path has broadened and become infinitely more beautiful.
    In the end, however, it’s *your* path. Even if you choose to walk it with other people, you will see and hear and feel different things along the way. Nobody can walk in your shoes but you. Nobody can look through your eyes but….you. Nobody can live your life but you. And it isn’t inherently selfish to choose a path that does not include kids.
    Nor is it inherently selfish to choose one that does.
    Ultimately, it’s selfish–and self-limiting–to assume that other people should share your reality. That they should share your feelings and beliefs and goals. That the world you look out into is somehow flawed unless it reflects *your* view of the world. It would be selfish of me to try to convince childfree people to procreate, just as it would be selfish of childfree people to opine that I shouldn’t have.

    More on this in that blog post I promised. It’s percolating!

    • Ana June, I can ear your voice and see your wise smile as you type those words. Thanks for dilating the conversation, and I can’t WAIT to read your guest post. You’re a super mom and inspired writer/photographer! No pressure… ;-)

  2. Shauna C says:

    Davis, I have always like you on Twitter and find you to be a likable guy in general. Sadly, 140 characters is not enough to hear other people humor and get a firm grasp on their personality. I have a very dry sense of humor. I interpreted the tweet I commented on to imply that I could have kids, OR love the earth. I obviously found that humorous and responded in kind.

    I think you have a very intelligent conversation going on at this blog, and had already clicked through a few days prior to read another post. I’m sure it would be very frustrating to have family and friends constantly question your decisions. My husband and I were childless for years. It included many painful experiences including lost pregnancies, harsh doctors and acquaintances who assumed I was a moron on all things concerning kids. I have been introduced to people as “Shauna, she doesn’t have kids” and treated as an outsider.

    I know that not having kids doesn’t mean you don’t like them. I also know those years weren’t empty, nor were they carefree. Life is still life. I did interact with lots of kids during those years, as an aunt, a friend and a pre-school teacher. I believe those parents appreciated the extra time I spent with their children. I know I appreciate it whenever anyone has a kind word or action for my daughters.

    While I was out yesterday a man asked me “are ALL those kids yours?” I have three little girls who were nicely eating their dinner. If I choose to have another one, I know from my friends I can expect an increase in dirty looks. I’m well aware of the way people treat those with kids, and I’ve been hurt when I didn’t have them. What I didn’t realize is that it seems to be more hurtfully directed when childless is a choice. I’m sorry for that. I guess we all need to be more gentle in our judgements of others. Or better yet, not judge at all.

    • Shauna, it’s you! And I DID think your tweet was funny. John Davis (@trekeast) who you included will also think it was funny. He’s a good laugher. =) But you’re right that 140 characters can be a little damaging to subtle humor. In this case it worked though. Thanks for taking the time to track me down and add your comment here.

      It’s interesting to hear that you get those snarky too-many-kids comments, reminds me of points made by Ana June (the Santa Fe commenter here and on the Facebook page). I’m sure it’s true. Decorum and manners are virtually extinct, I’m afraid. Or at least well on their way. The tone we’re hoping for with Why No Kids? is not snarky, is not angry, is not condescending or patronizing or superior. We’re really hoping to nurture a conversation. We don’t necessarily agree on all of the merits/demerits of childfree living, but all four of us DO find it fascinating that so many of our family, friends and acquaintances pay so much attention to our personal family choices. It’s weird. And funny. And it’s so much more constructive and congenial when we can all enter and enjoy a friendly dialogue rather than judging and criticizing and pressuring. Or so says I! :-)

      It’s interesting that you’ve experience both extremes, first as a childfree couple and later as a mother of three. So you’re an EXPERT at answering the questions “Why no kids?” and “Why so many kids?” We’re going to need plenty of input from you as we explore forward. Cheers!

    • ana june says:

      @Shauna: snarky reply suggestion for ya. “Why yes, they’re all mine….for now. We’ll see how things go. I’m hoping I won’t have to disown any of them when they’re teens.”
      Sincerely yours,
      Ana June
      Mother of four including two awesomely incredible teenagers

  3. Shauna C says:

    Oh good. I’m glad you saw the humor. I forget that while I’m online people can’t hear my voice, see my expression etc…I don’t see snark here and yes, I have definitely lived both sides of the coin.

    @Ana June LOL That reminds me of a comedian I saw on youtube last week. It was a woman, she said she and her teenage son were having a disagreement. During this he said “well why did you have me then?” Her reply “Well, we didn’t know it was going to be YOU… we thought it was going to be someone with a job.” Cracked me up. Esp the 1st part.

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